A Travellerspoint blog

Day 13 Poblacion de Campos – Calzadilla de la Cueza 33km

“Are you going all the way to Santiago?” During the first week of the Camino most people answer “yes” proudly to this question. But, after a while people start to experience the myriad of things that can go wrong on the Camino; wrong with feet and backs and hips and legs and knees and minds. Illnesses from food poisoning to chicken pox to terrible bed bug bites, and the response to this question changes to “I hope so.”

Tonight a group of us relax after dinner and look at each others photos, swapping Camino stories in the warm night air and listening to Manu Chao. Then a Spanish guy appears with a joint and takes the whole experience to a more exciting place. It's very, very, very good weed, and in no time we're giggling like mad at photos of Spanish women in blue curly polkadot skirts. When I finally get in to bed I try to set an alarm for the morning but end up setting a one-minute timer repeatedly instead – which set us off giggling all over again. My apologies to all the pellegrinos who were trying to sleep at the time...

Posted by CharliePepper 09:36 Archived in Spain Tagged friends spain fun santiago hike de camino pamplona roncesvalles albergues refugios saint-jean pied-de-port Comments (0)

Day 12 Castrojeriz – Poblacion de Campos 29km

Every morning on the Camino I use my phone as an alarm clock. I typically get stuck on the top bunk, which means my phone lies next to me and risks being plummeted to the floor when it rings to wake me up. To remedy this I have been keeping it in my sleeping bag at night, which is amusing because I ultimately lose it and have to find it again at 6 o'clock in the morning while the alarm is going off. As you can imagine this is funny, what with me and the bag and the phone and the noise and the height – it's about as Houdini as I get. But this morning, in this little albergue in Castrojeriz, a cat (unbeknownst to me) has decided to fall asleep on my pillow practically on my face. I didn't even know this albergue had cats. So, at 6 o'clock my alarm rings; I struggle sleepily to find my phone, the cat (who is knocked from the bed) claws on to the mattress, I (in my confusion) try to defend myself by pushing the cat off the mattress, who then tries to hold onto my arm. I still haven't found my phone at this point. Then the cat, (ten points for intelligence), tries to crawl inside my sleeping bag. I wouldn't put this on my list of 'recommended ways to start your day'.

The day gets better. I stop to buy a drink in the first town and have my head bitten off by a woman because I'm “doing the Camino and I don't speak Spanish.” Sorry, I didn't think it was that hard to understand me pointing at the bottle of lemonade I wanted. It's amazing how hard people can make things when they want to be difficult. But then I sit down to drink and somebody teaches me a cool rhyme. You write the letters Q.U.E.S.O. on your fingertips (from your thumb to your little finger on your left hand). Then you hold up fingers to spell out “que es eso, eso es queso!” which means what is it? It is cheese! I find this very amusing and it quickly makes up for the grumpy Spanish woman and her lemonade.

When I stop for the day I decide to practice some Spanish. I learn some useful new phrases from an American lady; “Quanto questa” – how much is it? “Puedo probalo” – can I try it on? “Arriba” – up, “bacco” – down, and “tieneh comas” – do you have beds? I meet Maria, (an amazing Dutch lady who started her Camino more than one month ago in France), who recommends a Swedish film to me; As It Is In Heaven. She asks me, like so many other people have, what I have learnt on the Camino, and I think at the moment I've learnt that I am just happy to be walking everyday. I'm enjoying meeting new people, writing, and having the time to daydream about LIFE, in big block italicised letters. Daydream about it, sure, but not dare to learn anything about it!

Posted by CharliePepper 09:35 Archived in Spain Tagged friends spain fun santiago hike de camino pamplona roncesvalles albergues refugios saint-jean pied-de-port Comments (0)

Day 11 Rabe de las Calzadas – Castrojeriz 28km

It's a bright sunny day and two speedy Norwegian ladies zip past me sporting red hair and hot pink t-shirts. Fresh Camino-meat, I think – there is no way they have been walking for 10 days. I stop to talk to them in the next town, and sure enough today is their first day. They're doing five days in total, then flying back to Norway, and they have been doing the Camino in stages for the last two years. I see lots of little brown mice on the path today, or “raton” as a Spanish man tells me. He later helps me pierce a blister, telling me he's a surgeon – only to clarify afterwards that he's a veterinary surgeon.

And now I'm sitting in Castrojeriz in a bath of sunshine with little birds (irondelles in French) swooping and chirping all around me. The music collecting around the bar must be from a western; a 1930's Sinatra-type voice gently sings to Spanish guitar and I could be somewhere else... I am somewhere else, somewhere that just is Else. My blister is still... a blister, and to give you some incredibly exciting news my right foot (currently under una bolsa con hielo – bag of ice) has swollen in the middle to the size of a soft-ball. A voice echoes in my head; “you've got to learn to listen to your body, it's part of the Camino.” Hmm, I think I'm not doing such a good job of this. I still walked 28km today. But I do get the feeling I'm going to have to stop and rest at some point. We started the Meseta today, dropping in over little Spanish hills to the charming town of Hontanas for one last pineapple juice before the days and days of shadeless flatlands that follow. I feel fantastic, “hereuse” as Jacques would say. “It's impossible to walk the whole day and not feel happy afterwards.”

Posted by CharliePepper 09:33 Archived in Spain Tagged friends spain fun santiago hike de camino pamplona roncesvalles albergues refugios saint-jean pied-de-port Comments (0)

Day 10 Cardenuela Riopico – Rabe de las Calzadas 25km

When I get to the church of Santo Domingo I go and see the chicken, and then I rush outside to the man at the desk and say “Oh my god the chicken is dead!” He stands up, looks at me for a moment and says slowly “no, no it's not dead-” but then it takes him a few moments to realise I'm joking. I thought it was pretty funny but he didn't. I'm really surprised that more people don't do this! The temptation was too great for me.

Today the rain in Spain fell mainly on Charlie Pepper. It was mostly gentle drizzle, but towards the end of the day a huge grey splodge appeared on the sky and loud growls of thunder rumbled across the plains of Asturias. It was great to watch, but kept moving closer, so I rushed along to the next town with bright spindles of lightening close on my tail. Whatever you do, don't stay in Tardajos. This is possibly the worst albergue on the Camino. Not only do they not have hot water, they don't have any water at all. When they do turn the water on (for one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening) the entire building shakes and makes a horrible noise because the pipes don't work properly. The good news is Rabe de las Calzadas is only 2km further on, and there is a beautiful little albergue here.

I have been learning Spanish via graffiti; Ti Amo means I love you, and Te Quiero means I want you, both are plastered across walls in hot pink bubbly letters. I also learn “poquita poquita” from the Spaniards that sail past me as I snail along with my blister, “picolo picolo” from the Italians and “petit à petit” from the French – all of which mean little by little. I also get “hola caracola” or hello snail from some Spaniards. I have decided that learning a new language is like retraining your mind. I sort of need to become like a child again, and have no understanding of the world – and then try to use the words of my new language as tools to understand where I am and what I am doing. Some people, when they learn a language, translate it into their first language as they go. So the steps are: Spanish to English to Brain. A native speaker only has one step; Spanish to Brain. So, to have a really good grasp of a language I am learning I logically need to skip the part where I translate everything in to English. If I take an extra step every time I read, hear (receptive) or construct (productive) a sentence then the culture of the language is lost. It's lost in translation, because the finite part of ideas are culture specific and therefore language specific. Wow, this is such a nerdy realisation. Let's get back to landscapes.

It's great to be able to devour the world like this in great hunks of countryside, doused with gleaming flora and served with a hearty side of locals. Crazy locals, generally. Oops, I'd love to talk more but there are two key words tearing me away; “Italians” and “pasta” ttfn, my dinner is served!

Posted by CharliePepper 09:30 Archived in Spain Tagged friends spain fun santiago hike de camino pamplona roncesvalles albergues refugios saint-jean pied-de-port Comments (0)

Day 9 Villafranca Mtes. de Oca – Cardenuela Riopico 24km

heard a great quote this morning; “you don't walk the Camino, it walks you.” I feel that way right now with my blister, still king-sized, slowly slowly making my way out of Villafranca. There is a thick mist covering the forest and I take tiny steps through the green, totally alone for the whole morning. It's very cold. I don't know who told me Spain was warm but it was probably the same person that told me Turkey doesn't get cold – BOTH COUNTRIES GET COLD. Don't leave your warm clothes at your grandmothers house in England, you'll need them.

I thought today was going to be one of the worst days but it's actually OK. Painful, but still really fun. I have walked 24km and I stop at the cutest stone cottage to sleep, a private albergue in Cardanuela Riopico. I lie on the grass and sleep in the sun and then meet a fantastic South African lady who treats my blister for me. She is magical, and massages both my feet with herbs and oils from a medicine woman in her village at home. Impressed and relaxed I sleep all afternoon. I think Santiago is looking after me, making sure I go slowly and don't rush! As the Spaniards would say; “Santi (crossing two fingers) is looking out for you, he's got your back.”

While eating dinner I learn about the legend of Santo Domingo, a church on the Camino where a live chicken is kept at all times. Many years ago some pilgrims were travelling through Santo Domingo and they slept in the church. A little girl had her eye on a pellegrino boy but he didn't like her, and she was so angry that she stole some silver from the church, hid it in his bag and then dobbed him in. He was caught, and hung. But he didn't die, because his feet were held up off the ground by the power of Santo Domingo. The major of the town was eating dinner while all of this was going on, and when the townsfolk came to tell him that the boy wouldn't die he refused to believe them. He said “that boy is as dead as the chicken on my plate!” And at that very moment the roast chicken in front of him stood up and started clucking. This is one of the miracles of Santo Domingo, and from that moment on the church has kept a live chicken at all times. It never dies (because it is replaced by a new chicken every week).

Oh, and before I forget the next chapter of the affair of the Spanish cucumbers was released today. We found out that they were poisoned! The Camino is alive with gossip about salads and assassinations. We finish our dinner and there is one piece of tortilla left on the plate, I'm told this is called el trozo de la vergüenza or the piece of embarrassment – because everyone is too embarrassed to take it.

Posted by CharliePepper 09:28 Archived in Spain Tagged friends spain fun santiago hike de camino pamplona roncesvalles albergues refugios saint-jean pied-de-port Comments (0)

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